"Diamonds & Wood" is an ongoing series in which music critic Shea Serrano breaks down the 5 hip-hop tracks you need to hear this week.

In 1956, a very handsome, very well groomed man walked into a tiny bar/dance hall in an overwhelmingly Latino neighborhood. For most of the men in there, it was easy to tell they’d lived hard lives. Either their faces were worn dark brown and wrinkled from laboring in the sun or their eyes were tired and jaundiced from things that makes eyes tired and jaundiced, or a combination of both—not the very handsome, very well groomed man though. He stood out immediately.

He was tall and slender, but not too tall and certainly not too slender. The whites of his eyes were like milk, the blacks like something exceptionally black. When he walked, it was with a purpose. He had a walk you remembered. He was clearly confident, but it never mutated into cockiness or condescension—not from afar, at least. People noticed him. Everyone noticed him. Marie noticed him.

Marie was 17-years-old, and had snuck into the bar because sneaking into a bar in 1956 was less like sneaking in and more like walking in. She had parents and she had a back story, but none of that matters. She was born to exist only in that very specific moment in that very specific setting.

The Man strolled to the bar, ordered a drink, paid, then turned and leaned his back up against it. He noticed people. He noticed everyone. Then he noticed Marie. She was beautiful, obviously.

He set his drink down and then he walked over to her. He introduced himself, then said two sentences that altered history. Marie never forgot those sentences. Not for her whole entire life did she ever forget those sentences. She knew things would never be the same after he said them; in the days and months and years that followed—she referenced them with a weird reverence. However, for reasons that she never fully explained, she never ever repeated them. Never. NEVER.

The two began to dance. He was graceful on his feet (to the surprise of no one) and sturdy with his hands. He never let Marie’s body drift too far from his own—he had his own gravity, it seemed. When he would pull her in, she would steal his scent. It was like nothing she’d ever smelt before. It was exotic and familiar, all at once. She was nervous and comfortable, all at once. This was exactly where she wanted to be feeling exactly how she wanted to feel and it was maybe more than she could handle, she thought.

But then she looked down. And everything changed.

She wasn’t certain if she’d seen what she thought she saw, or maybe she was and just didn’t want to believe it. Either way, she was terrified, and warbling on her axis. She watched his legs with a sternness that few have ever possessed. Waiting and watching and waiting—still dancing, but with a very clear amount of trepidation in her step—he noticed.

He stopped dancing. He looked in her eyes. He looked in her eyes and saw fear. He saw fear that toppled kingdoms. He saw the fear and he knew. His smiled slowly, the corners of his mouth stretching across his broad jaw slowly. He looked at her and she looked at him. Then he looked towards the floor near his feet and then looked back at her. She mirrored him. He bent over slightly, grabbed a hold of his pant leg, then looked at Marie. He put his left index finger up to his mouth, then slowly exposed where his calf should’ve been.

Marie’s eyes grew big as softballs. She screamed, maybe louder than anyone has ever screamed. Everyone stopped. Everything stopped. The universe stopped.

“El diablo! El diablo! Tiene la pierna de una gallina! Los he visto! El diablo!,” she shouted.

The room exploded.

Religious Latinos have long asserted that devil walks the earth regularly, that he is nearly impossible to identify, save for one discombobulating feature: He has the leg of a chicken.

That’s what Marie saw. That’s what The Man showed her.

Before anyone could realize what was happening, he broke. He shoved his way past everyone to the back of the bar, momentarily escaping into the restroom. The men, when they figured out what was taking place, bumrushed the door, beating on it and screaming and beating on it and screaming.


“Abran la puerta!”


“Nosotros vamos a matar!”




Eventually, the door gave way to the force, its hinges wilting to the fury. Men poured into the tiny room. It was a 4’ x 4’ space, painted lilac purple and only occupied by a toilet and a sink and a mirror. The door to get in was the door to get out. There were no windows and there was nowhere to hide. And yet still, it was empty.

He was gone—undeniably, unexplainably, impossibly gone.

And now for some music.

Is anyone even listening to anything right now besides Kendrick Lamar? I think music stopped, actually. All of it. ALL OF IT. EVERYTHING THAT WASN'T THE KENDRICK LAMAR ALBUM WAS PUT ON HOLD, APPARENTLY. So let's just feed into that.

The five best songs from Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city, a very good (but not perfect) album that people will start attacking in about two weeks after they've listened to it enough to start to hate it for no real reason.

1. "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe"

The very best from the YouTube comment section: "Kendrick fucks yo bitch to this song." Really, I wouldn't even be all that mad. That's how good this song is.

2. "Black Boy Fly"

Just a really great, great first verse here.

3. "Sing About Me"

Here he uses the phrase "sing about me" to mean "talk about how important my life was when I die." I'm pretty sure nobody is going to sing about me when I die. Dang.

4. "m.A.A.d City," featuring MC Eiht

Manages to be really good despite starting out with a brutal, "Brace yourself, I take you on a trip down memory lane."

5. "Money Trees," featuring Jay Rock

If you don't think I'm going to spend the week finishing all of my sentences with "ya bish," then I don't even know what to tell you, ya bish.

Shea Serrano is a writer living in Houston, TX. His work has appeared in the Houston Press, LA Weekly, Village Voice, XXL, The Source, Grantland and more. You can follow him on Twitter here.